Colubris Plans WLAN 'Swiss Army Knife'

By Ed Sutherland

October 18, 2004

Flexible dual radio devices cover both Wi-Fi spectrum bands, simplify deployment, and multiply available network throughput.

Waltham, MA-based Colubris Networks plans later this week to unveil two multi-radio, multi-purpose devices aimed at becoming the "Swiss Army knife " for hotspot operators and enterprise WLAN administrators, company execs tell Wi-Fi Planet.

Now in use by Boeing to power its Connexion broadband in-flight Internet service, Colubris's CN3300 WLAN Service Controller and CN330 Access Device boast the industry's first use of two 802.11 radios able to simultaneously broadcast on today's popular 2.4Ghz 802.11g band, as well as 5Ghz 802.11a from a single box.

Offering the ability of dual radios to cover both wireless spectrums provides a hedge against future technology shifts, as well as increasing performance, according to the company.

While 802.11g is the current Wi-Fi standard everyone is requesting, future needs cannot be predicted.

"The environment you have today may not be what you want in the future, " says Carl Blume, Director of Product Marketing at Colubris. "Customers will be able to adapt to changing needs, " says Blume.

"Network managers and IT directors can deploy multiple services or applications—such as data, video and voice—on a WLAN at half the cost and installation time of other solutions, " according to the company.

Examples of that dual use can be seen in two customers for the new devices: Boeing's Connexion service, the first customer for the Colubris boxes, uses one radio to provide airline passengers in-flight Internet access, while the second radio is used by cabin personnel to check catering information and other data, according to Blume.

Using dual radios "virtually eliminate user density challenges, " says Chris Reitz, co-owner of Beacon Wi-Fi. Reitz' company supplies Wi-Fi service to more than 70 marinas up and down the East Coast. The increased bandwidth also means more services can be offered.

"Our plans call for rolling out Wi-Fi voice and other applications next year, " said Reitz. "Doubling the bandwidth in an RF footprint provides us the opportunity to offer a number of new services and applications to our customers, " according to Reitz.

The WLAN Services Controller and Access Device "simplify deployment and expand capacity with support for two simultaneous channels using any combination of the 802.11a/b/g modes, " according to a Colubris statement.

In addition, each of the radios is software-configurable, allowing customers to employ each device in any number of ways.

The WLAN Services Controller or the Access Device can "operate as an Access Point, WLAN Monitor or Wireless Distribution System Bridge, " according to Colubris.

The monitor allows "full spectrum scanning, rogue AP detection and RF monitoring, " according to a prepared statement.

The monitor "provides 7x24 monitoring of both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, " says Blume.

The WDS Bridge "expands capacity and coverage while eliminating the need for cabling to locations not easily accessible with a wired network, " according to Colubris.

Allocating one of the 802.11a or 802.11g radios as the WDS Bridge "allows wireless backhaul between APs, " says Blume.

Blume calls the CN330 Access Device a "hotspot in a box. " Along with dual radios, the access device can be configured for 802.11a/b/g environments and can operate as a traditional AP, bridge or monitor.

The Colubris Networks Management System manages both the CN3300 and CN330. Available now, the CN3300 WLAN Services Controller is $1,099. The CN330 is $799.

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